New poll reveals where evangelicals diverge from orthodox Christian theology

Got this Christianity Today article from my friend Eric Chabot, who blogs at Think Apologetics.

Excerpt:

A survey released today by LifeWay Research for Ligonier Ministries “reveals a significant level of theological confusion,” said Stephen Nichols, Ligonier’s chief academic officer. Many evangelicals do not have orthodox views about either God or humans, especially on questions of salvation and the Holy Spirit, he said.

Evangelicals did score high on several points. Nearly all believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead (96%), and that salvation is found through Jesus alone (92%). Strong majorities said that God is sovereign over all people (89%) and that the Bible is the Word of God (88%).

And now the bad parts:

Almost all evangelicals say they believe in the Trinity (96%) and that Jesus is fully human and fully divine (88%).

But nearly a quarter (22%) said God the Father is more divine than Jesus, and 9 percent weren’t sure. Further, 16 percent say Jesus was the first creature created by God, while 11 percent were unsure.

If that’s a problem for you, then read this post from Come Reason.

More badness from the original article:

But if evangelicals sometime misunderstand doctrines about Jesus, the third member of the Trinity has it much worse. More than half (51%) said the Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being. Seven percent weren’t sure, while only 42 percent affirmed that the Spirit is a person.

And 9 percent said the Holy Spirit is less divine than God the Father and Jesus. The same percentage answered “not sure.”

Like Arianism, confusion over the nature and identity of the Spirit dates to the early church. During the latter half of the fourth century, sects like Semi-Arians and Pneumatomachi (Greek for “Spirit fighters”) believed “in the Holy Spirit”—as the First Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) taught—but said the Spirit was of a different essence from the Father and the Son. Some said the Spirit was a creature, and others understood the Spirit to be a force or power, not a person of the Trinity.

At Constantinople, 150 bishops assembled to discuss these heresies, among other issues, and affirmed that “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have a single Godhead and power and substance, a dignity deserving the same honor and a co-eternal sovereignty, in three most perfect hypostases, or three perfect persons.” Affirming the full divinity and personhood of the Holy Spirit, the church ruled out Semi-Arianism and Pneumatomachianism.

Here’s another:

Human nature and salvation were other areas of confusion for respondents. Two out of three (68%) said that a person obtains peace with God by seeking God first, and then God responds with grace. A similar percentage (67%) said people have the ability to turn to God on the own initiative. Yet half (54%) also think salvation begins with God acting first. So which is it?

In the fifth century, a British monk named Pelagius reportedly argued that people can choose God by the strength of their own will. Adam’s sin, he taught, did not sabotage human freedom, so we still have the ability to choose and follow God by the strength of our will.

His school of thought, known as Pelagianism, was denounced at the Council of Carthage in 418 and later at the Council of Ephesus in 431. A variation, known as Semipelagianism, cropped up shortly thereafter, affirming original sin but teaching that humans take the initiative in salvation. The Council of Orange in 529 rejected Semipelagianism as heretical, maintaining that faith is a gift of God’s grace and does not originate in ourselves.

More than half of survey participants (55%) said people have to contribute to their own salvation. This, however, is a debated issue. Some Christians—such as Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and certain Protestants—believe humans cooperate with God’s grace in salvation. Others believe our efforts can contribute nothing, though a response to God’s grace is a necessary element of conversion. Nevertheless, historic Christian teaching in all branches maintains that whatever role humans play is ultimately inspired by the work of God’s Spirit.

My view is “our efforts can contribute nothing, though a response to God’s grace is a necessary element of conversion”. Nobody desires God, but if we reject his drawing of us to him, in whatever form that takes, we are responsible. That’s my view, anyway!

Go take a look at the article and see if you commit any of the heresies.

4 thoughts on “New poll reveals where evangelicals diverge from orthodox Christian theology”

  1. WK,

    You said:

    My view is “our efforts can contribute nothing, though a response to God’s grace is a necessary element of conversion”. Nobody desires God, but if we reject his drawing of us to him, in whatever form that takes, we are responsible. That’s my view, anyway!”

    I agree completely.

    The only thing I would add is that the necessary response is a passive response and not an active one. Just as a jury responds passively to overwhelming evidence in reaching a verdict, so the response that leads to conversion is passive. When the weight of the historical evidence for Christ and his promises is presented by a skilled advocate (The Holy Spirit) to a subject that is passively docile (i.e. the “will” which when active moves to ignore the evidence, but in conversion that will is inactive), that subject is inevitably brought to belief.

    Only in this way does God get the credit for belief, but the individual retains the culpability for unbelief.

    My two cents.

    Great article, BTW.

    Too many of our churches don’t think doctrine is important, or they think that it is just boring. No wonder aberrant ideas are being obliviously tolerated by so many Christians. They don’t know enough fundamental, Biblical truths to even know the difference between the true and the false. And they don’t seem to think it really matters much anyway. Is it any wonder then that the churches (and “Christian colleges and even seminaries!) are so full of leaders who haven’t got the slightest knowledge or care for sound apologetics and don’t really see any need for it? And more that their congregations (in many cases) are quite comfortable with the stance of that leadership?

    Sad, but true.

    JMG

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  2. “My view is ‘our efforts can contribute nothing, though a response to God’s grace is a necessary element of conversion’. Nobody desires God, but if we reject his drawing of us to him, in whatever form that takes, we are responsible. That’s my view, anyway!”

    I would tend to add the qualifier “nobody desires [submitting entirely to] God”. It is my view that most people are attracted to the concept of God; although with all the submissive aspects abstracted away. Is this a reasonable and constructive way of describing the human condition or have I gone all heretical?

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  3. Wintery said: “…….My view is “our efforts can contribute nothing, though a response to God’s grace is a necessary element of conversion”

    The first part of that sentence seems to contradict itself. A ‘response’ is an effort. It seems evident in scripture that we have a part to play and a “work” (a bad word I know) to do in accepting and believing, which is responsible for our conversion, sanctification, and salvation. This is present in almost every book of the Bible.
    ‘jmg123’ tries to find a way out of it through a sort of passive work of the will, and he may be onto something and correct in some ways, but I think the plain reading of scripture tells us that we have an active role to play by our affirmation, belief, and acceptance of Christ’s deity and salvific death in our place on the cross. It just seems clear, to me, in scripture, that it’s a two way street.

    This is even more clearly so for the gaining of our degree of reward in the afterlife.

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